Fox News & Wall Street Journal Both Grossly Misrepresenting Climate Science: UCS Study

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Regular TreeHugger readers probably don't need another reason to cast a questioning eye at the actual newsworthiness of Fox News, but here are some more stats at how unfair and unbalanced the US's most popular cable news channel is when it comes to climate science.

Union of Concerned Scientists has just released a new report looking at how well Fox News and the opinion page of the Wall Street Journal have accurately represented climate science.

It's all set against the backdrop of parent company News Corp.'s relatively strong corporate stance on climate change, and the fact that Fox News is the most-watched cable news channel in the US and the Wall Street Journal has the greatest newspaper circulation in the nation.

UCS looked at the coverage of climate science on Fox News from February to July 2012 and the Wall Street Journal opinion page from August 2011 to July 2012. Fox News made 40 references to climate change in that time, with the Journal making 48 references.

The misrepresentation comes down like this:

For Fox News, 93% of references to climate change were misleading, with the most common form taken being to "broadly dismiss the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring or human-induced."

For the Wall Street Journal, 81% of letters, op-eds, columns and editorials made were misleading. Most "attempted to broadly undermine the major conclusions of climate science. Instances of attacks on individual scientists, mocking the science, and cherry-picking data were all equally common. Instance included accusations that scientists were fudging data and claims that they are motivated by financial self-interest."

UCS concludes that News Corp. "has an obligation to improve its representations of climate science," and "needs to help its staff to differentiate between opinions about climate science and scientific facts."

It is entirely appropriate to disagree with specific actions or policies aimed at addressing climate change while accepting the clearly established findings of climate science. And while it is appropriate to question new science as it emerges, it is misleading to reject or sow doubt about established science—in this case, the overwhelming body of evidence that human-caused climate change is occurring.

For those interested, the original report goes into greater detail about the nature of the misleading statements made in both media outlets, as well as the methodology involved in the study: Is News Corp. Failing Science?.

Digging through the TreeHugger archive to the most recent survey of American beliefs about climate I could find, two-thirds of people in the US believe the planet is warming (a slight increase from previous surveys), while roughly one half of people attribute this to human activity and just over one-third believe that most scientists think global warming is happening (a six point decrease over past versions of this survey).

Tags: Global Climate Change | Global Warming Science

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